International conference on the Ili-Balkhash Basin

02/04/2007

International Conference on Implementation of Integrated Management in the Ili-Balkhash Basin
Almaty, Kazakhstan, 6-7 March 2007

At the invitation of the European Commission and Ministry of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Ramsar's Senior Advisor for the Asia/Pacific, Dr Lei Guangchun, participated in a transboundary river management meeting from 6 to 7 March 2007 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. More than 70 participants from government representatives, scientific and non-governmental organizations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the People's Republic of China as well as representatives of UNDP, UNESCO, OSCE, IUCN, Ramsar Convention, UNESCO Centre for Water Law Policy and Science (University of Dundee, Scotland), other international organizations, diplomatic missions and other agencies, discussed issues and perspectives of development of the Ili-Balkhash Basin.

The Ili-Balkhash Basin is a unique natural water system with a catchments area exceeding those of Great Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium taken together. The basin is rich in natural resources; it has a huge capacity for the development of agriculture, industry, transport, processing industries, tourism and recreation. The region also has a significant geopolitical importance. However, given its unique natural resources and capacity, this region is facing numerous social and economic issues. Due to increasingly serious anthropogenic pressures, unreasonable water utilization and increased water intake for various economic activities, the Ili-Balkhash ecosystems are under threat and Lake Balkhash is facing the same fate as the Aral Sea. Unresolved transboundary legal issues and inefficient management, which limit the utilization of the full capacity of the basin, are urgent problems. The delegates discussed the best international practices of ecosystem and basin management, as well as possible legal, institutional and economic mechanisms to attain long-term basin development goals.

Dr Lei presented all relevant Ramsar river basin management and water management guidelines to the meeting, and encouraged all three Contracting Parties, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and China, within the same basin to cooperate effectively in their implementation of relevant Ramsar resolutions. He also provided advice to the Parties on how to develop such regional initiatives, including multilateral agreements and their operation.

After the meeting, he met with different stakeholders. Apart from short meetings with China and Kyrgyzstan delegates, he had a very constructive meeting with the minister of Kazakhstan Ministry of Environment Protection and the senior government officials on their accession to the Ramsar Convention, and how they can best set up institutions for the implementation of the Convention.

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